Feed Subscriptions Are So Important

When I left b5media, I had established a base of over 1300 feed subscribers on this blog. I was proud of that because, let’s face it, if you aren’t a news site breaking news all the time, people are not as inclined to subscribe to a feed.

The feed at that time was hosted via FeedBurner with whom the network had an enterprise account with. As a member blog of b5media, and one of the folks that tested and pushed FeedBurner on the network, my blog was one of the first hosted under their CNAME policy. The CNAME policy allowed us to brand feeds with b5media (http://feeds.b5media.com as opposed to http://feeds.feedburner.com).

Obviously, I had some branding concerns to deal with and I contacted FeedBurner for a solution that would allow me to take control of my feed and retain the subscriber base I had established over a period of time.

FB: Simple. We can transfer it under your Feedburner account if you’d like
Me: Yeah, let’s do that.
FB: Oh wait, your feed is under the Feedburner Ad Network and so because of financial logistics involved with b5media owning that feed URI, we cannot transfer it. But, you can burn a new feed, delete the old and use 30 day redirection to send people to the new feed.
Me: Okay, that makes sense.

And off I went. I burned the new feed, deleted the old with redirection, and looked at numbers over the next few days. My feed subscribers had dropped to almost a third of what they were (down to about 400 subscribers).

By the time I realized that I had been nipped in the bud by the CNAME issue, it was too late and all those subscribers were gone with no way to communicate to them about re-subscription.

Over the past 3 months, I have rebuilt to around 850 – still a large distance from where I was, but slowly getting there. If you haven’t re-subscribed yet, please do so now.

Takeaways

Feeds are our bread and butter in blogging. Knowing that there are people subscribed to a blog, provides direct value to bloggers. It helps us understand the dissemination of our content and the reach of our audience. We value page-views, obviously, but feed subscriptions may be the most tangible metric of actual reach available.

When you find a blogger that you enjoy, vote with your feet (or clicking finger) and add their blog to Google Reader or one of the other many feed readers (most of which are free). We really do appreciate it. It makes us feel that the work we’re putting in is actually making a difference.

Other feeds that we provide:

Landed On My Feet

Back a few months ago, I announced my departure from b5media. At that time, I really didn’t know what I would end up doing. At the time, I figured I’d land on my feet doing something similar (Director of Technologyish) or maybe dip my toes in PR. Lord knows I wanted to get out of technology. No doubt I’ll be back in technology at some point in my life, but I really needed a break from it and wanted to explore other career paths.

Well, two months went by and when I left b5media, I quickly picked up with Lijit where, instead of dipping my feet in PR or continuing on the technology track, I found myself learning the ropes of Business Development.

Never been here. Never done that.

In typical Aaron fashion, I thought I could storm in and prove all the critics wrong. Wrong. I figured I could identify a bunch of high profile sites and, bam, I’d prove my mettle.

Wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I did a fine job. I managed a few quick wins and set about on bigger targets. Time went by and the wins got farther apart.

Okay, I began realizing this was a marathon, not a sprint. I had to adjust.

Adjustment ongoing, however I’ve shown enough promise at this very new role for me that last week I traveled out to Lijit World Headquarters in Boulder, Colorado – a place once described as 50 square miles surrounded by reality – and met the entire team. In addition to a pleasant few days in the mountains and thin air, I was pleased to walk away with a full-time gig. Business Development Manager.

Scary title. I even now own a Boulder phone number. Fascinating.

Interestingly, I’ve learned a few thing about Biz Dev as it relates to other, more familiar roles.

  1. The key to BizDev is more about relationships and less about sales.
  2. Pitching doesn’t work. Talking does.
  3. BizDev is a war fought with a pistol, not a machine gun. (via Micah)
  4. Strategic wins are sometimes bigger than Big wins.

I’m sure there are other things that I’ll continue to learn about BizDev as time goes on. Love to hear your thoughts on this kind of role. Tell me what I need to learn.

Update on Me, b5media, Future Plans

I hesitate to write this because it’s somewhat personal, and this blog has become anything but a personal blog. However, I’m going to write it anyway because people understand that, though there’s multiple writers here, this blog is largely still associated with me. And frankly, I’ve been asked a million times what is next.

Back at the end of March, I announced my resignation from b5media. At that time, I did not know what would be next but I was going to take an approach of “Wait and see” and figure out what opportunities were out there. Crazy talk, I know, quitting your job without having something lined up – but it had to be done that way. Let’s face it, it’s not right for me as an executive to be out soliciting work behind the company’s back. I’m not leaving on bad terms, nor do I want to ruin relationships in a company I helped build. It was the right thing to do. Gutsy. Ballsy. But proper.

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Since then, the question has come up, “Well, what do you want to do?” That’s been a question I’ve actually wrestled with quite a bit. Identifying and targeting the space I want to be in. Something somewhere in the bizdev, social media, blogging relations world – yet, with my hands in the operational side of things as well, whether development or otherwise.

See, if my experience at b5media has taught me anything, it taught me something about the growth of a startup and the phases those startups go through. I’ve learned something about scaling a business. Not everything. I’m leaving the network in the hands of someone else who can bring that experience in. Anyone who knows WordPress knows that out of the box it doesn’t scale well. How do you do hundreds of millions of requests and keep ticking? How do you run WordPress on 350 blogs and keep it all ticking?

Yeah, I couldn’t have done it by myself – and I haven’t. That’s where “learning how” comes into play.

However, my rolodex is thick. I love meeting people and it seems like everyday, the rolodex gets thicker. I can help people get access to influencers, networks, businesses. Not everyone, but then no one can do that. Unless you’re Scoble (Hey, nice new design, Robert!).

The economy is in a weird place right now. No one knows if we’re in a recession or not. If we are, it seems the web/tech space is largely unaffected. Investments are still happening. IPOs (the death of the dot-com era) are few and far between. The space keeps plugging along even if we have to tighten our belts a little bit. So, though the phone has been relatively silent, I have gotten a few “Hey, Aaron, we want you to come work with us” calls so far. I think it’s fascinating when someone else calls me, but thats neither here nor there.

Martini Glass

All this to say, b5media has hired my replacement. We’ll talk about him more in the coming week. However, my last day is Friday, May 16. Effective Monday, May 19th I am an independent contractor, consultant, “Web Strategist”, WordPress freelancer, Communications strategist, advisor.

This is scary actually. Not really what I had planned. Not really what I want. But it seems to be the direction life is going. Plus it seems like the only way that I can retain a healthy degree of independence, not have to go into an office every day, and be involved in lots of various things going on around the web. Currently, I have a verbal agreement with a Web 2.0 company, a pseudo-Web 2.0 company, and a PR firm for work with more in the pipeline.

If you’d like to be in contact with me to help you out, drop me an email at aaron@technosailor.com. Let’s talk.